OWLS HEAD, Maine — A pilot was killed when her light plane crashed Saturday in shallow coastal waters as she was preparing to practice approaches and landings at Knox County Regional Airport, authorities said.
Janet Strong, 73, of Topsfield, Mass., died shortly after 10:30 a.m. when she crashed the single-engine, four-seat Piper Cherokee near the Crockett Beach Road, which is less than a mile from the airport.
Residents heard the crash, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for Maine Department of Public Safety, and one found her under the plane’s wing outside the fuselage. Residents tried to provide immediate first aid, but McCausland said it was soon apparent she had suffered fatal injuries.
McCausland said Strong’s body was taken Saturday afternoon to the state medical examiner’s office and that it was unknown whether she was suffering from any type of medical condition at the time of the crash. The cause of the crash will be determined by the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.
Strong, who was the plane’s lone occupant, was operating under visual flight rules and air traffic control was not involved, said Holly Baker, spokeswoman for the FAA.
The plane belongs to the Knox County Flying Club, said airport manager Jeff Northgraves.
“She was doing pattern work and approaches and landings at the airport,” he said. Northgraves said skies had just cleared at the runway but there was a fog bank in the area of the crash.
Strong had waited on the runway for an hour for the fog to clear before taking off, McCausland said. She intended to take a flight around the midcoast area, he said. Strong had friends in the area and came to visit often and rented a plane from the club.
The Coast Guard, state police, Maine Marine Patrol and local fire and rescue crews were at the scene of crash, which occurred in 3-foot-deep water near Crockett’s Beach.
The Coast Guard said in a press release that it received a phone call at about 10:50 a.m. from Knox County dispatch reporting a downed Piper aircraft. The Coast Guard responded with 25-foot and 47-foot boat crews from its Rockland station. A Hercules fixed-wing aircraft from Brunswick Naval Air Station conducted a flyover of the crash site.
Because the area where the plane went down was very shallow, the Coast Guard boat crews were unable to gain access to it.
A salvage team from Rockland went in at low tide about 7 p.m. Saturday to pick up the pieces of the small airplane. Maine State Trooper Jeremiah Wesbrock of Troop D in Thomaston, who monitored the cleanup, said the plane would be taken to a hangar to be examined by the FAA.
BDN writer George Chappell in Camden and The Associated Press contributed to this report.